The Restaurants Had No Food

On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


G is for Ghana


Only after Ghana defeated the United States in World Cup soccer in 2006 did it occur to the Footloose Forester that a Ghana story might get somebody’s attention.  The name Ghana was tossed around a bit….where is that country that so humiliated the USA in a sporting event?  It turned out that few people he spoke to even knew that Ghana was in West Africa.  The Footloose Forester could scarcely forget.

As he remembers it now, Footloose forester was in Accra, capital of Ghana in the spring of 1976 to visit the Volta River Project, as background material for the problems associated with dam construction projects, in general, in West Africa.  The trip was sanctioned under the job assignments of the staff working on the Senegal River Basin Project.  The Footloose Forester was the Terrestrial and Aquatic Vegetation Specialist, so he had asked to go to one of the most famous examples of post-construction dam siltation and aquatic weed congestion. The tiny Azolla plant was the specific objective to be studied.  Well, it turned out to be less than an instructive trip because the host country did not have, or could not afford, the transportation to the dam site on the Volta River.  At that time, the country upstream of Ghana was named Upper Volta. Since that time, that country is called Burkina Faso.  But the trip to Ghana was memorable, nonetheless.

At sunset on the first night in Ghana, Footloose Forester set off from his hotel room to eat dinner.  He entered through a brightly lit and open-air canopy, to a nicely laid out bank of long tables, neatly prepared with cloth napkins, shiny silverware, and a clean white tablecloth.  After seating himself and waiting patiently for about 20 minutes in an otherwise empty restaurant, he was aware that although he saw a uniformed employee from time-to-time, nobody came to his table to take his order.  So Footloose Forester took the initiative and went into the kitchen and asked to be served.  The answer was “Sorry, Sir, we have no food.” So Footloose Forester left and had a meal of peanuts and oranges from the last of the street vendors who were still in the market place.



A typical fruit stall in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Not to be deterred, he tried another restaurant on the second night in Accra.  This one was on the second level of a neat, imposing building.  He walked in, seated himself and again waited patiently for a waiter to appear.  And once again, the place was clean, brightly lit and well appointed with fresh linen table cloths and napkins.  But once again, Footloose Forester had to seek out an employee to ask for service.  The answer was the same as on the previous night.  “Sorry, Sir we have no food.”  Here was an example of what he had read about some cultures: the principle of form over substance.  That is, the appearance of having an operating restaurant seemed to be more important to the managers than the fact that there was no food. To them, having the restaurant open was more important than the fact that they had no food to prepare.  Once again, Footloose Forester left and made his way to the vegetable market before it closed for the night, to fill his tummy on bananas and oranges.  For the three days that he spent in Ghana, the Footloose Forester never did eat a meal in a restaurant.

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